Just 7 hours from the west coast of California and just a few short hours from Hawaii, is the island paradise of French Polynesia. This collection of 118 islands is truly heaven on earth. While most travelers head straight to Bora Bora, we encourage you to explore some of French Polynesia’s other gems, like Moorea, Tahiti or Rangiroa. There is so much natural beauty, down to earth hospitality and spectacular landscape to experience. The culture and people of French Polynesia are also the most hospitable, kind people we have ever met.
one could spend a month exploring French Polynesia and it wouldn’t be enough. However, we highly recommend spending at least 3 nights on each island. For maximum impact, fly to Bora Bora for 3 nights and then spend 3 nights either on Moorea or one of the other islands. Bora Bora is incredible, but it comes at a higher cost. Rates on Rangiroa or Moorea are more budget friendly, while still providing a luxurious experience.
A common type of accommodation in French Polynesia is called “Pensione”. Pensiones are family-run boutique hotels that typically operate more like a guest house. They range in price and luxury from very basic to high-end boutique hotel with full blown amenities. You’ll find Pensiones on most islands and provide a nice alternative to the big brands. Our recommendation if you are on a tighter budget is to spend a few nights in a Pensione and then spend the last 2 nights of your trip in the ultra-luxurious hotel.
Typically, travelers will arrive to PPT, the main international airport for all of French Polynesia. Once on the main island of Tahiti, you will travel by boat or by smaller prop-plane to your destination. Bora Bora and sister islands are a few hours away and require a domestic flight. Islands like Moorea, however, are a short, 40 minute ferry ride from Papeete and require only a $20 ferry ticket.
Taxis are quite expensive due to the high gas prices on the islands, so many travelers opt for renting a car if they plan to explore the islands. On Moorea and similar islands, restaurants will typically pick you up and drop you off if you eat a meal at their restaurants.
French Polynesia has everything you love about France and more. Think delicious cheese, beautiful wine and fresh bread. Of course, Tahitians put their own spin on it, adding fresh fish and seafood. The don’t-miss dish of French Polynesia is Poisson Cru, a take on Tuna Poke with coconut milk – just trust us.
Dining prices really range, depending on where you go. Resorts will be more expensive, particularly the big chains on the islands (think $35 USD for a burger at select 5-star resorts). Regardless of what you’re looking for, you will find it. Note, however, that if you stay on Bora Bora or similar islands, it’s likely that you will not be leaving the resort to go out to dinner.
French Polynesia is known for their pearls. The best shopping we encountered is the Marché Papeete, located just across from the ferry terminal on the main island of Tahiti. Travelers can find anything from discount single pearls to beautiful, handcrafted jewelry and flower crowns. The shops surrounding the Marché contain some of the higher-end items and travelers can claim VAT upon exiting the country.
Prices are fair due to the Tahitians being genuinely kind people that are not looking to “screw” the tourists. Some negotiation is expected, within reason.
People in French Polynesia are some of the kindest, genuine people we have ever met – anywhere in the world. There’s really no such thing as getting ripped off in French Polynesia that we experienced. From the Marché to the hotels, Polynesian people genuinely care about everyone (tourists and their fellow Polynesians alike). It’s a stark contrast to many places around the world, where you’re constantly in fear for your safety and for getting majorly ripped off. The concept of Pensions are huge in French Polynesia. The family-owned “bed and breakfast” style hotels are the low-key, often low-cost alternative to fancy hotels. The Polynesian owners take care of you as if you’re family and they’re often incredibly clean and nice. Of course, with all places, do your research. Beware of places with negative reviews on TripAdvisor, as they’re often great indicators of the truth. We’ve only have one bad experience in French Polynesia and it was dealing with a scam from the Australian-owned Moorea Beach Lodge.
Spectacular beaches, towering mountains and kind people make up the beautiful island nation of French Polynesia. This French-Tahitian paradise is perfect for travelers looking for delicious food and gorgeous views. There's a lot to consider when planning your trip!
The flights are typically the most expensive part of the trip- although, there are consistently deals on the major airlines like Air Tahiti Nui and United. Be sure to follow Scott’s Cheap Flights or set up Google flight alerts for your preferred dates. If you’re planning to visit Bora Bora or some of the other gorgeous, remote islands, be sure to account for the additional $500-800 USD per person for the roundtrip airfare from Papeete.
Hotels range dramatically, from the lower-end Pensions to the high-end luxury resorts. Be aware of additional costs like food and alcohol on the more remote islands. Bora Bora, for example, is more like the Maldives – you will likely not leave the hotel. In these cases, it could be worth adding a F&B package like Half Board to your stay to minimize your costs during your trip. Alternatively, staying in Moorea offers a broader reach of dining options as you ca walk from your hotel to a number of restaurants.
Suggested daily budget- Food found in French Polynesia is mostly French as the majority of the food is shipped from Europe to French Polynesia and subsidized. Poisson Cru (our favorite dish), ranges from about $5 for a container at the grocery store to $35 at a high end hotel. Alcohol prices are on the higher end, ranging from $12-17 for a cocktail or glass of wine. Vin De Tahiti is a delicious wine made on Rangiroa, and provides an inexpensive alternative to some of the French wines (and trust us, it’s delicious).
While there's really no bad time to visit French Polynesia, the weather can certainly impact your trip. The best months for weather are June-August, but be forewarned that prices can get quite high as travelers flock to the islands for summer vacation. November-December are some of the wetter months, but prices are lower November-April, making it the optimal time for travelers looking for a deal.
Check out some of our favorite French Polynesian resorts and what we like and don’t like about each of them.
The main island of Tahiti is an often overlooked, but incredibly special destination. From towering waterfalls
Max and I had the opportunity to be hosted at the beautiful Sofitel Moorea two years ago and were so excited to return this year
Tahiti is the main island of French Polynesia and is a typical stop for many travelers headed off to remote
On previous trips to French Polynesia, we did not spend much time on the main island of Tahiti.
Welcome to Tahiti! The beautiful main island of Tahiti is full of adventure, shopping and kind people.
On our first trip to Moorea in 2018, we fell in love with the island.
Epic mountain peaks, kind people and delicious French food are the top three things to expect from this gorgeous island nation. But I warn you, prepare to never want to leave.
Our recommendation to start planning your trip is to first establish a budget. Be sure to include what you are comfortable spending per night on lodging, any added transfer costs (from $20 for the ferry to Moorea, up to $400 for a flight to Bora Bora) and your daily food budget.
Next, consider how far you’re willing to go. There are a lot of islands! If you go to Bora Bora, consider hoping over to Tahaa after. Be sure to consider what time your flight arrives or departs from Papeete. It’s quite possible that you will need to spend the night on Tahiti before jetting off the islands. If this is the case, consider the Intercontinental Tahiti or the Ia Ora Beach Resort managed by Sofitel.
Lastly, be aware that if your flight departs Papeete late at night, the airport opens 2 hours before your flight and there is no where to hang out before then. Consider grabbing dinner locally to avoid the humidity you’ll experience in the air-conditioning-free airport.